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XXV.

LOVE’S MARTYR

THE WORDS AND THE WORKS, the prayers and the sacrifices which made up the life of the Little Flower, were all colored with the little Saint’s desire for martyrdom. In the early days of her girlhood, she offered herself to the Child Jesus "to be His plaything." She told Him "not to treat her as one of those precious toys which children only look at and dare not touch, but rather as a little ball of no value that could be thrown on the ground, tossed about, pierced, left in the corner or pressed to His Heart, just as it might please Him."

    This invitation was accepted by her Jesus, when at Rome He pierced the heart of the Little Flower with the lance of disappointment, the refusal to give her assurance that she would be able to enter Carmel.

    Again our memory will serve to remind us that on the occasion of her profession, she carried upon her heart a letter containing the words: "I ask that for Thy sake I may die a martyr—give me martyrdom of soul or of body. Or rather give me both."

The closing pages of her Autobiography almost turn to red, as they reveal Therese’s yearning to shed her blood for the cause of Christ. "The greatest of all my desires is to win the martyr’s palm. Martyrdom was the dream of my youth, and the dream has only grown more vivid in Carmel’s narrow cell. Yet this too is folly, since to slake my thirst for suffering, not one, but every kind of torture would be needful.

 

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        "Like Thee, 0 my adorable Spouse, I would be scourged, I would be crucified! I would be flayed like St. Bartholomew, plunged into boiling oil like St. John, or like St. Ignatius of Antioch, ground by the teeth of wild beasts into a bread worthy of God.

    "With St. Agnes I would offer my neck to the sword of the executioner, and like Joan of Arc murmur the name of Jesus at the burning stake."

    Seeing in each hemorrhage that drained her frail frame of its life’s blood an indication that God would probably not grant her the grace to shed her blood at the hands of torturers, she prayed that she might at least become a martyr of His love.

    Shortly after the death of the little Saint, a miniature copy of the Gospels was found upon her breast. It had been her constant companion and her sweet comforter throughout the trials of her life. Within its well-thumbed pages was discovered a precious prayer of her own composition and labelled "An Act of Oblation." It is valuable to us, not only because it was frequently upon the lips of a Saint, but also because it is a model prayer for us to repeat in our strivings after holiness. The text reads:

   "In order that my life may be one Act of perfect love, I offer myself as a victim of Holocaust to Thy Merciful Love, imploring Thee to consume me unceasingly and to allow the floods of infinite tenderness gathered up in Thee to overflow into my soul, that so I may become a very martyr of Thy Love, 0 my God. May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear in Thy presence free me from this life at the last and may my soul take its flight—without delay—into the eternal embrace of Thy Merciful Love!

 

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    "Oh my beloved! I desire at every beat of my heart to renew this Oblation an infinite number of times, ‘till the shadows retire’ and everlastingly I can tell Thee my love face to face."

    These words were first uttered by the Little Flower on the Feast of the Blessed Trinity, June 9, 1895. While she was praying for martyrdom, her heart was slowly suffering martyrdom by the keenness of her desires.

    Her intense longing to do something really great for Christ and the Church were partially satisfied, when one day God permitted her to penetrate deeply into the meaning of St. Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians. In the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of that letter of the fiery Apostle, the doctrine of the mystical Body of Christ is powerfully and clearly explained. Christ is the head and the heart of that Body and we are all the members. There are diversities of ministries in that Body, but the same Lord worketh all in all. In the human body there are different members with different functions. Yet they all serve the same body. The feet serve to carry the body whithersoever it wishes to go; the hands furnish the body with necessary nourishment; the ears warn the body against danger; the eyes give it light to see what it is doing.

 

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And so on with the other members. It is similar with the mystical Body of Christ. It is made up of Apostles, Martyrs, Prophets, Priests, Nuns. business men, laborers, and so forth. They are all designed to do a special work. The function of one will differ from that of another. Yet all serve the same Lord. All are united under the same Head, Jesus Christ, Who is the heart and the power working within them all.

    This doctrine was very consoling to the Little Flower. She wanted to be the heart of that great mystical Body. She saw that by being most intimately united to the Sacred Heart of Christ, by loving it until she became absorbed into it, she could make her influence felt in the lives of the martyrs, in the preaching of the Apostles, in the ministry of the priests, in the labors of the workingmen throughout the world.

    Upon making this discovery, our little Carmelite nun cried out in a transport of joy: "Oh Jesus, my Love, my vocation is found at last—my vocation is love! I have found my place in the bosom of the Church, and this. place, 0 my God, Thou hast Thyself given to me; in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be Love! . . Thus shall I be all things and my dream will be fulfilled."

 

 

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XXVI.

HEAVENWARD

NO ONE PREACHES more eloquently than from his bed of suffering or more convincingly than from his deathbed. The last days of Therese’s simple, though most meritorious life, together with her edifying death, have given the world more food for thought than the thickest volumes of the most profound philosophers.

   Throughout her illness, this servant of delicate frame maintained an unflinching courage. Countless times she attended services and participated in the customary penances, when suffering from vertigo or violent headaches might have excused her from these exercises. "I am still able to walk," she was accustomed to say, "and therefore I should be at my post." Little wonder that soldiers and other men of mighty responsibility have chosen her as their patron. She was faithful to duty—obedient unto death.

    In the matter of food, she always accepted what was placed before her. In vain did the Sisters try to discover the dishes which she preferred. Even when her own sister in the flesh, Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart (Marie), held the office of procuratrix at Carmel, the Little Flower showed no desire of receiving special attention.  "She (the procuratrix) looked after me with a mother's tenderness.  To all appearances I was pampered, and yet endless were the mortifications which she imposed upon me by serving me according to her own taste which was entirely different from mine." Her sensitive stomach had its likes and dislikes. Yet she succeeded in concealing her preferences in order that she might become more like unto her Divine Model, her Crucified Savior.

 

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    Shortly before her death, the little Saint made the following revelation: "All during my religious life the cold has caused me more physical pain than anything else—I have suffered from cold until I almost died of it." Night after night she would lie shivering on her mattress of straw, with two thin blankets to cover her. Her sleep was frequently interrupted by spells of coughing, which often caused her to remain awake most of the night. She did not complain. These sufferings were diamonds for Jesus.

    Hemorrhages of a most serious nature took place during the last days of July, so that it was deemed advisable to have her receive the Last Sacraments. Encircled by the members of her community, Therese begged pardon of them all and then received the last anointing. Such joy lighted up her countenance and such devotion characterized her prayers, that the witnesses were moved to tears. It was expected that the Little Flower’s soul would be released from its mortal bonds without much effort or struggle. But that would not be entirely in keeping with the Saint’s desires.

 

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    She knew that little souls usually go through an agony when the end draws near. If she was to be imitated by little souls, she must also die in the manner that is usual to them. Possibly she had prayed that she might suffer to the end, not only for the sake of Christ and for the good of her soul, but also that her example might be of consolation to all who might witness her last sufferings. God did not disappoint her. He granted her two months of physical torture after she had received the Last Sacraments.

    The greatest trial that Therese of the Child Jesus endured during the concluding days of her life, was her inability to receive Holy Communion. During the preceding winter, she had dragged herself from her cell to the chapel under the most trying circumstances to receive the Divine Food. Nothing had helped her more than the partaking of this Bread of the Strong. But now, even that consolation was to be denied her. From August 16 till the day of her death, her vomiting spells were so frequent and so violent that it was impossible for her to receive her Lord in the Holy Eucharist. The intensity of the pain which this privation caused her can, in some way, be ascertained from her words, "But I reflect on the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch: ‘I also must be ground by suffering in order to become the wheat of God.’" In other words, Therese compared being deprived of Holy Communion to the torture of being torn apart by lions.  Such a comparison could be based only upon her vehement desire to unite herself with her Divine Master in Holy Communion.

 

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    We should err greatly if we were to think that Providence withdrew every trace of consolation from the Little Flower during those last trying days of her mortal career. One day, before she took to her bed, as she was walking in the garden she halted in her steps to observe a little white hen sheltering its chicks under its wing. This spectacle touched the heart of the tender nun and set the fountain of her tears to flowing. "I can not remain here any longer," she replied, "let us go in!" Upon reaching her cell she was still in tears. Looking at one of her companions, she explained: "I was thinking of Our Lord and of the touching comparison He chose in order to bring home to us how tender He is. All my life long He has done that for me—He has completely hidden me under His wing. I can not tell you all that has just stirred my heart; it is indeed well for me that God conceals Himself, only rarely allowing me to see the effects of His Mercy, and, as it were, from ‘behind the lattices.’ Otherwise I could never survive the sweetness."

    On another occasion, an ear of corn was brought to her bedside in the infirmary. After gazing on it, the invalid said to the Mother Prioress: "That ear of corn, dear Mother, is the image of my soul which God has loaded with graces for me and for many others, and it is my earnest desire to bend always beneath the weight of His gifts, acknowledging that all comes from Him."

 

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    God blessed the little sufferer with the consciousness of the mission which she would one day fulfill. Thus we find her giving joyful vent to such prophetic words as the following:

    "AFTER MY DEATH I WILL LET FALL A SHOWER OF ROSES," and "I WILL SPEND MY HEAVEN DOING GOOD UPON EARTH."

    Other Sisters of her Community frequently reminded her of the Heaven of rest and repose which she would soon enjoy when once her Beloved had called her from this vale of tears. Such sentiments were not entertained by the Little Flower. To her, Heaven would not be an abode of rest or idleness.

    To anyone else but Therese, the jibes thrust at her by thoughtless Sisters of her community might have inflicted a deep wound. God had given her the grace to be absolutely indifferent to the opinion of creatures.

    One day when the Little Flower was resting in her cell, after an exceptionally painful remedy had been applied to her side, she overheard the following words coming from the kitchen window: "Soeur Therese will not live long, and really I wonder sometimes what our Mother Prioress will find to say about her when she dies. She will be greatly puzzled, for though the little Sister is very good, she has certainly never done anything worth speaking about."

    The infirmarian compassionately turned to Therese and remarked: "If you relied on the opinion of creatures, you would certainly be disillusioned today."

 

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    "The opinion of creatures!" replied the patient, "happily God has given me the grace to be absolutely indifferent to it. Let me tell you something that showed me once and for all how much it is worth. A few days after my clothing I went to my Mother’s room. ‘Mother,’ remarked a lay-sister who happened to be there, ‘this novice certainly does you credit. How well she looks! I hope she may long be able to observe the Rule.’ I was feeling really pleased at the compliment when another Sister came in, and looking at me, said: ‘Poor Soeur Therese, how very tired you look, you quite alarm me. If you continue like this I am afraid you will not be able to keep the Rule very long.’ I was only sixteen then, but the incident made such an impression on me, that I never again set store on the variable opinion of creatures."

    How far mortals can err from the truth, was shown by the current conviction at Carmel that the Little Flower had not suffered much. On one occasion when one of the Sisters made a remark to that effect, Therese pointed to a glass which contained some medicine of a bright red color. "Do you see that glass?" she asked. "One might suppose that it contained a most delicious draught, whereas in reality it is more bitter than anything I take. Well, it is the image of my life. To others it has been all rose color; they imagine that I have drunk of a most delicious wine, but to me it has been full of bitterness. I say bitterness, yet, after all, my life has not been sad, because I have learned to find joy and sweetness in all that is bitter."

 

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    The gnawing and consuming pangs of disease, the numbing pain produced by the cold and the barbed shafts of criticism leveled at her, were as nothing compared with the storm of temptations against Faith aimed at her by the evil one. "Were it not for this trial," she said in reference to these temptations, "I think I should die of joy at the thought of soon leaving the world." Possibly God permitted Satan to foresee the vast army of souls that would be rescued by the Little Flower down through the centuries. Certainly such a vision was a distasteful sight to him whose business it is to drag souls down to ruin. Consequently, the disturber of souls did all in his power to envelop her in darkness and bring her to despair.

    Out of these temptations she emerged victorious. Once after she had thus bitterly been assailed, she cried out in words that must remind the reader of the celebrated words of the twenty-second Psalm: "The Lord is My Shepherd." She must have studied the Psalmist’s words carefully to be able to express such sentiments as these: "I have no fear of the last struggle, or of any pain, however great, which my illness may bring. God has always been my help; He has led me by the hand since I was a child and I count on Him now. Even though suffering should reach its furthest limits, I am certain He will never forsake me."

    In a letter to one of her "brother missionaries" she wrote, "I count on not being idle in Heaven, for it is my wish to continue to work for the Church and for souls. I ask this grace from God and I am certain He will grant it. So you see that if I am leaving the battlefield, it is not with the selfish desire of taking my repose. It is a long time since suffering became my paradise on earth, and I find it hard to understand how I shall become acclimatized in a land where joy reigns supreme and alone. Jesus must entirely change this soul of mine, otherwise it could not endure eternal bliss."

 

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    The heavenly-minded sufferer found reason to rejoice even in the expensive medicines which were ministered to her, though she knew for a certainty that they could not stay the approach of death. If they were to profit her nothing, why should she consent to take them? Her motive was a very noble one. Like St. Gertrude, she did not want to rob her benefactors who supplied the medicine, of the reward which comes to those who practise charity.

    Enough has been said to prove that Therese was ever on the look-out for the bright side of things. Even in death she saw a friend, not a smiting angel, come to tear her loose from all that she held dear, but rather an angel of peace come to usher her to the region of lasting delights. Shortly before her departure from this world, the chaplain asked her if she were resigned to die. Her simple answer was that she needed more resignation to live than to die and that the thought of death brought her nothing but pure joy.

    To the surprise of all, the little sufferer lived on into the month of September. On the sixth day of that month, the God of All Consolation sent into her sickroom a visible sign that He was well pleased with her patience in suffering. She had long desired to obtain a relic of Blessed Theophane Venard,* the French Missionary, who was martyred in Tonkin, China, in the year 1861. Now that coveted treasure was brought to her very bedside. She kissed it repeatedly and refused to part with it.

*THEOPHANE VENARD— Blessed French missionary, born at St-Loup, Diocese of Poitiers,1829; martyred in Tonkin, February 2, 1861. He studied at the College of Doue-la-Fontaine, Montmorillon, Poitiers, and the Paris Seminary for Foreign Missions which he entered as a sub-deacon. Ordained priest June 5, 1852, he departed for the Far East, September 19. After fifteen months at Hong Kong he arrived at his mission in West Tonkin, where the Christians had recently been tried by a series of persecutions under Minh-menh, a monster of cruelty. Shortly after Father Venard’s arrival, a new royal edict was issued against Christians, and bishops and priests were obliged to seek refuge in caves, dense woods and elsewhere. Father Venard, whose Constitution had always been delicate, suffered almost constantly, but continued to exercise his ministry at night, and, more boldly in broad day. On November 30, 1860, he was betrayed and captured. Tried before a mandarin, he refused to apostatize and was sentenced to be beheaded. He remained a captive until February 2, and during this interval lived in a cage, from which he wrote to his family beautiful and consoling letters, joyful in anticipation of his crown. His bishop, Mgr. Retord, wrote of him at this time: "Though in chains, he is as gay as a little bird."

    On the way to martyrdom, Father Venard chanted psalms and hymns. To his executioner, who coveted his clothing, and asked what he would give to be killed promptly, he answered: "The longer it lasts the better it will be." His head, after exposure at the top of a pole, was secured by the Christians and is now venerated in Tonkin. The body rests in the crypt at the Missions Etrangeres, Paris. Other precious relics are in the hands of the martyr’s brother, Canon Eusebius Venard, cure of Assais Deux Sevres, France, who possesses, also, most of the martyr’s letters, including those written from the cage. In a letter addressed to his father, Theophane refers thus to his approaching sacrifice: "A slight sabre-cut will separate my head from my body, like the spring flower which the Master of the garden gathers for His pleasure. We are all flowers planted on this earth, which God plucks in His own good time: some a little sooner, some a little later . . . Father and son, may we meet in paradise. I, poor little moth, go first. Adieu." The cause of his Beatification was introduced in Rome in 1879, and he was declared Blessed, May 2, 1909. The Beatification ceremony brought a large delegation from France, including the bishop of Poitiers and the martyr’s only surviving brother. Theophane Venard was beatified in company with thirty-three other martyrs, most of whom were natives of Tonkin, Cochin-China, or China.

—The Catholic Encyclopedia.

 

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    The reason for Therese’s devotion to this young martyr, was, according to her own explanation, threefold:

    1) "He is a little Saint, and his life was quite ordinary."

    2) "He had an ardent love of our Immaculate Mother."

    3) "He likewise had a great love for those at home."

    It was her death-bed wish that the life of Theophane Venard might be studied closely by her fellow-sisters and thus his virtues might be sung throughout the world. "His soul and mine," she said, "resemble each other, and his words reecho my thoughts."

 

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    As a parting gift to the members of her community, the Little Flower had copied some of the priest-martyr’s last words to his beloved relatives at home. A glance through these passages will reveal a pleasing parallel between the philosophy of the martyred missionary and that of our Saint of Lisieux:

    "Nothing on earth can make me happy, for the desires of my heart are too vast, and nothing of what the world calls happiness can satisfy them. Time for me will soon be no more; and my thoughts are fixed on Eternity, and my heart is full of peace, like a tranquil lake or a cloudless sky. Thirsting for the waters of Life Eternal, I leave the world without regret. Yet a little while and my soul will have quitted this earth, will have finished her exile, will have ended her combat. Heaven is won. I am about to enter the abode of the Blessed—to see what eye hath never seen, to hear what ear hath neverheard, to enjoy those things which the heart of man hath not conceived.

 

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    "I have reached the hour so coveted by us all. It is indeed true that God chooses the little ones to confound the great ones of the world, and I do not rely on my own strength but upon Him Who, on the Cross, vanquished the powers of hell. I am a spring flower which the Divine Master gathers for His pleasure. We are all flowers, planted upon earth, and God will gather us in His own good time—some sooner, some later. . . . I, a little flower that has lived but one day, am the first to be taken! But we shall meet again in Paradise, where we shall enjoy unending bliss."

    Therese faced her last agony with all the calm and resignation which characterized her martyred friend, Theophane Venard. Until two days before her death, she would not permit anyone to remain with her through the night. In life she had sought to imitate her Savior; in death she wished to suffer like Him—alone. Only in compliance with the wish of her superiors would she permit the infirmarian to look into her cell from time to time, during those long and painful nights that preceded her departure from this world.

    From September 25 until the end, the Little Flower was so weak that she could no longer make a move unaided. The least sound tormented her. She was so consumed by fever and so exhausted by her battle to gain breath, that she could not speak a word without sensing severe pain. This condition continued until September 29, when the death rattle in her throat seemed to announce that the end was near. The doctor, making his usual visit, assured the Prioress that the patient would not see the dawn of another day. His prediction proved inaccurate. One more painful night, and one more day, almost dark as night, stood between her and Heaven. When Thursday, September 30, dawned, the pain-scorched eyes of the sufferer fell for a moment upon a miraculous statue of the Blessed Virgin which was facing her bed. Recalling the night of agony through which she had just passed, the Saint exclaimed: "Oh! I have prayed to the Blessed Lady so fervently, but it is pure agony without any measure of consolation."

 

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    The long hours of her last day on earth were punctuated by frequent ejaculations of resignation to the Will of God, and numerous petitions to her fellow-sisters that they support her by their prayers in her last agony.

    In the middle of the afternoon when she was so weak that she could scarcely speak, she placed her arms in the form of a cross, bespeaking thereby that she was ready to suffer the keenest possible pangs that death might bring.

    It would seem that each new act of resignation coming from her generous heart drew down upon her some new deluge of trials, some cruel rain of suffering. Even she was surprised at her capacity for suffering. "I would never have believed," she said, "that it was possible to suffer so much, never, never! I can not explain it except by the ardent desire I have of saving souls."

 

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    At five o’clock a decided and sudden change came over the countenance of the Little Flower. Her sister, Mere Agnes de Jesus, who was alone with her, took this as an infallible sign that death was imminent. Accordingly, she called the members of the community to the infirmary to witness the death of a Saint. For each of them, Therese, true to her name, "Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face," had a sweet smile, even for those who had been her severest critics during her years in the cloister. Then, as if to indicate whence she drew her strength and consolation, she turned her head towards her crucifix and became lost in contemplating her Dying Savior.

    Two hours of writhing and of struggling followed. Her entire body quaked with pain. The sweat of death became so copious that the bed-covering and the mattress were saturated. The dying nun’s lips were parched by the burning fever which was consuming her entire frame. Sister Genevieve (Celine), hastened to fetch a small particle of ice to refresh the lips of the Little Flower. As she applied the cooling cube to those saintly lips, must she not have recalled the beautiful words of Our Lord: "Whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, Amen, I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward." Sister Genevieve needed not to wait until eternity to be rewarded for this last attention to her dying sister. The look of infinite tenderness and the smile of grateful appreciation on the face of the Little Flower were recompense for the little service rendered.

 

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    At seven o’clock in the evening, the condition of Therese had not improved notably, nor had it become more grave. The Mother Prioress, thinking that the patient would live at least two more hours, dismissed the community. This gesture seemed to be of some concern to the dying nun. "Has the agony not yet come, Mother?" she asked. "Am I not going to die?"

    "Yes," answered the Superior, "this is the agony; but the good God wishes perhaps to prolong it for a few hours. . . ." Nothing remained for the submissive soul of the Saint, but to add her "fiat" to the designs of God in her regard. She did so tersely, though beautifully, with the words: "Well, then, let it be so. Oh, I would not wish to suffer less!" Thereupon, she fastened her gaze upon her crucifix and with failing voice uttered her dying words: "Oh! I LOVE HIM! .. . MY GOD, I LOVE . . . THEE . . . " The Little Flower’s soul, purified by suffering and laden with diamonds of sacrifice, winged its happy way to a blissful eternity.

    Heaven rejoiced that night; a million angels celebrated the homecoming of a little Saint who had taught the world to travel the Little Way to happiness. Four cherubs furnished the music for her reception—Marie Helene, Marie Melanie Therese, Marie-Joseph-Louis, and Marie-Joseph-Jean-Baptiste, her sisters and brothers who had preceded her to Heaven. Two tender parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, pressed their Little Flower to their saintly hearts and thanked God for having kept it free from harm, though not from suffering.

 

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    The precious body of the "little Queen" was laid out near the grille of the choir so that the public could profit by one last look at Therese of the Holy Face. Upon her head rested naturally a crown of white roses. In her hand was placed a palm-branch, which must have sweetly recalled to her companion sisters the Saint’s often repeated wish: "I desire at all costs to win the palm of St. Agnes; if it cannot be mine through the shedding of blood, it must be mine through love." This impressive spectacle drew large crowds to the monastery to pray before the remains of the Little Flower and to have religious articles touched to her body, that thus they might have some precious keepsakes of her whom they had already canonized in their hearts.

    In accordance with the expressed wish of the Saint, who had a special liking for flowers during her life, there were no flowers about her casket. She preferred that the missions should profit by her death. On one occasion she had said: "You must not let people give wreaths to place around my coffin, as was the case with our good Mother Genevieve. But ask them to use the money in rescuing poor little negroes from slavery. Tell them they will please me by so doing."

   

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    Even before her remains were lowered into their grave, Therese’s soul began its mission of doing good upon earth. One of the lay-sisters who had been a source of continual annoyance to the Little Flower all during the latter’s life in the cloister, was now suffering seriously from cerebral anaemia. It happened that this nun was most deeply impressed by Therese’s heroic suffering and edifying death. Possibly she had used a saint as a target for her ugly criticism. She was stricken with compunction and overwhelmed with devotion to the deceased Little Flower. She had heard of the "shower of roses" which the young nun had promised to scatter upon this needy world. Why could not she, though a former persecutor of the Saint, be the first to receive one of these petals? Filled with these sentiments, she approached the casket containing the body of Therese, kissed the Saint’s feet and leaned her head for some minutes upon them. Behold the first cure wrought by the Flower of Lisieux! The lay-sister was suddenly and completely freed from the dreaded disease which had caused her so much discomfiture and worry. This miracle was the first "rose" of that plentiful shower, which the little Saint had promised to send down upon this world.

    The funeral of the Little Flower took place on October 4. It happened quickly and without ostentation, just as Therese would have desired. Some few days later, a simple wooden cross was erected at the head of her grave. Upon it were carved her name, Soeur Therese de l’Enfant Jesus and the words of her promise: "JE VEUX PASSER MON CIEL A FAIRE DU BIEN SUR LA TERRE."—"I shall spend my Heaven doing good upon earth."

 

SaintTherese10.jpg (61293 bytes)

Little St. Therese in her glory.

 

 

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XXVII.

SUNLIGHT FOR ALL

PROPHETIC words are those which the Little Flower wrote to her godmother, Marie, in her celebrated canticle of love: "I am a child of Holy Church. I do not ask for riches or glory, not even for the glory of Heaven—that belongs by right to my brothers, the Angels and Saints. My own glory will be the reflection of the radiance that streams from the brow of my Mother, the Church."

    Childlike soul that she was, she little knew the honor that was in store for her. Yes, her Divine Spouse wanted her to be the reflector of His virtues, the mirror of the perfections of His Church. But His designs did not end there. He destined her to be a tutor, a director, a leader, a guide for the whole human race.

    Scarcely had her body been consigned to its grave, when her Autobiography, the History of a Soul, made its way into every corner of the globe. From 1898 to 1925, approximately 410,000 copies of the complete edition were distributed throughout the world. In addition to these, two million copies of the abridged Life of the Little Flower went into an almost unprecedented circulation. During the same interval more than 30,000,000 pictures of the Saint were demanded by her devotees scattered over the face of the earth.

 

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    How shall we account for this wave of enthusiasm for a little tubercular nun, whose life within the convent walls was characterized by nothing extraordinary? Is it not the very simplicity of her little way of confidence and self-abandonment? "Without going beyond the common order of things," says Pope Pius XI, "she followed out and fulfilled her vocation with such alacrity, generosity and constancy that she reached an heroic degree of virtue." The same venerable Pontiff has declared that Therese’s way is "not merely a possible, but an easy way for every soul."

    Her Autobiography, more than anything else, was the blessed instrument whereby millions of souls in every walk of life became acquainted with the Flower of Lisieux. In its pages the sick found the secret of turning their pains to precious pearls with which to purchase the kingdom of Heaven. From its paragraphs, business men and women, crushed beneath the weight of unavoidable responsibilities, and laborers dragging out their lives in work-shops and in factories, learned the lesson of sanctifying the routine of their existence. By the Little Flower’s lucid explanations of the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, men of property were moved to be more considerate to their employees. Monsignor Lavielle tells of a rich factory-owner in Liverpool, who was completely transformed by reading the life of Therese. This employer of more than a hundred workers of both sexes acknowledged that before he came to know of St. Therese de l’Enfant Jesus, he never gave a thought to ameliorating the condition of his employees. He read the Histoire d’une Ame, and became a new man. Not content with distributing copies to each of the workers, and having the picture of the Saint put up in his work-shops, he gave an annual holiday of eight days to everyone in his employment during which they received their usual wages. He organized little social gatherings to bring some rays of joy into their dull and monotonous lives; he sent many of them to make retreats, "for," said he, "it is eternal happiness above all, which I wish to procure for these poor people." He advanced with steady strides in the "little way;" he had learned the lesson of love.

 

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    It would require a ponderous volume to record the numerous conversions and the thousands of vocations which owe their origin to the reading of the life of the Little Flower. Bishops laboring in remote corners of the globe were so fascinated by the study of her life, that they sent to Lisieux for a few particles of earth from her grave. In one instance, while one of these prelates was preaching to an obstinate band of Esquimaux, he strewed some of these particles over the heads of his hearers. Behold! The entire tribe, hitherto unmovable, approached him after his sermon and begged to be baptized.

    In the matter of vocations, we are informed that Carmel of Lisieux could by no means accommodate the large number of postulants who felt themselves drawn to the cloister after reading the Saint’s account of her life. Young ladies from all parts of the world sought admission to the enclosure which had been hallowed by the footsteps of little Therese.

 

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    Devotion to the Little Flower was given an added impetus in the millions of miracles wrought through her intercession in every part of the known world. It was God’s way of setting His royal seal upon the doings and the sayings of a saint. As in life her prayers had gone out to every class of mortals, so too, after death her miracles were worked in behalf of every class. Now it was the cure of a stricken nun in the quiet of the cloister. Again is was the miraculous protection from death of a soldier on the front line of battle. At another time, it was the instantaneous recovery of a priest on the point of death. On numerous occasions, she showed her predilection for little ones, by straightening the limbs of children, correcting their eyesight, healing them of the most malignant diseases. No one was forgotten in her mission of mercy.

 

 

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XXVIII.

EXALTED!

 

THE ELOQUENCE of the miracles wrought by the "little Queen" soon prevailed upon ecclesiastical authorities to begin the Cause of her Beatification. Let it here be understood that the Church has no power to "make saints." A soul reaches the heights of sanctity by cooperating with the graces that are vouchsafed it by Almighty God; a soul becomes a saint by repeated acts of self-denial, by continued acts of love, by constant abandonment of one’s own will to the will of God.

    In giving a servant of God the honors of Beatification, the Church simply gives permission to venerate the "blessed one" (beatus) locally or within a certain territory. In canonizing one of God’s chosen souls, the Church officially commends the honor of that saint to the entire world.*

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   *Monsignor P. E. Hallett is the author of an admirable and thorough pamphlet on the Canonization of Saints. This treatise was published by the Catholic Truth Society, London, I935.

 

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     The Cause of the Beatification of the Little Flower was undertaken in the year 1909, by the Very Reverend Father Rodrigo of St. Francis of Paula. In accordance with custom, the relics of the little Saint had to be identified and measures had to be taken for their safe custody. This required that her grave be opened and its precious contents examined. On the way to the cemetery, many curious souls expressed the wonder whether or not the flesh of the "little Queen" would be found intact as had been the case with many other saints, even decades after interment. There was one nun who could have answered this question. On the night before the exhumation ceremonies, Therese had appeared to Mother Carmela, Prioress of the Carmelite Convent at Gallipoli, in Italy, and had declared: "They will find only my bones." That is what ordinarily happens when graves are opened, nothing but bones remain. The Little Flower sought no privileges in life. Neither did she desire that her remains be spared the humiliation of decay. The contents of her grave were placed in a cemented vault, which was conveniently placed near the center of the community plot.

    Ten years later there was a second opening of the grave. Two medical experts identified the bones which were then laid in a chest of carved oak, which in turn was enclosed in a rosewood case lined with lead.

    From this time on, the Cause of the Little Flower’s Beatification proceeded with almost unprecedented rapidity, though with painstaking thoroughness. Inasmuch as many of the witnesses had walked and talked and lived with the young Carmelite nun, only two miracles were required to permit her name to be entered upon the list of the beatified. Bundles of records of miraculous cures were at hand. So numerous were the marvelous reports that flowed into Lisieux, that authorities there found difficulty in recording them. Out of all this abundant "shower of roses," only two miracles were selected to promote the Cause of Therese’s Beatification.

 

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    The first of these wonders was worked by the Little Flower in the year 1906, in behalf of a young man, Charles Anne, studying for the priesthood at the Seminary of Bayeux, France. The story of his cure is extremely touching.

    Charles was brought to the very brink of the grave by that relentless and consuming disease of tuberculosis. Medical examination revealed that the malady had reached its most advanced stage. Large cavities were discovered in either lung. A novena made by his friends to Our Lady of Lourdes, through the intercession of the Little Flower, was without avail. The invalid had always been a staunch admirer and a zealous devotee of the wonder-worker of Lisieux. He would not relinquish his hope in her, who had offered up her whole life for the sake of priests and priestly vocations. With all the fervor of his soul, he began a novena to the recently deceased Carmelite, reminding her of her promise to spend her Heaven in doing good upon earth. Therese could not resist his powerful pleadings. One day, after a violent hemorrhage which announced to bystanders the advent of death, the seminarian cried out to his patroness: "I did not come here to die! I came to work for God! You must cure me!" Then, utterly exhausted and clutching a relic of the Saint in his hands, he fell asleep. During that sleep, Therese worked her miracle! When Charles Anne awoke, he was completely cured— marvelous reward for his unbounded trust in the power of the Little Flower.

 

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    Not less remarkable was the second cure selected for the Cause of our heroine’s Beatification. Sister Louise of St. Germain, one of the Daughters of the Cross at Ustarritz in the south of France, had been terribly tortured ever since her novitiate (1911-12) by a malignant ulcer in her stomach. In the year 1915, it was deemed advisable to administer to her the Last Sacraments. Like Charles Anne, she had recourse to the Little Flower to whom she had a tender devotion. Periods of improvement were followed by periods of decline. In September, 1916, Sister Louise began a second novena to St. Therese. One night (September 10) the Saint appeared to her and promised to cure her, provided she would only be generous with God. On the following morning, the invalid’s companion sisters found rose petals of various colors strewn about the bed of the sufferer. Whence they had come was a mystery. Equally unaccountable was the serious relapse which Sister Louise experienced immediately after the termination of the novena. But Therese had not abandoned her devoted protege. When the stricken nun awoke on the morning of September 25, she was completely cured. The evening of that day found her participating in the regular routine of the convent.

    After both these miracles were duly scrutinized and discussed by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, His Holiness, Pope Pius XI, gave them his approval on the eleventh day of February, 1923. On March 19, the same Pontiff published the decree known as the "De Tuto," which formally authorized the Beatification of the Little Flower.

 

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    It was a triumphal procession which wended its way nine days later from the cemetery gate to the chapel door of Carmel. The precious relics of our "little Queen" were transferred from the privileged vault which had enclosed them, to the magnificent reliquary prepared for them in the convent chapel. This event took place on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25. It was a day of glad tidings to the nuns within that favored cloister which had given a saint to the world.

    Only four days intervened between the transfer of Therese’s remains and the Beatification. April 29, 1923, was a day of joy for the entire world, a day of great moment for Pope Pius XI; for on that day, His Holiness had the pleasure and the privilege of adding the name of Therese of the Child Jesus to the list of the Blessed.

    Fresh showers of miracles fell upon the world on the day of the Little Flower’s Beatification. Within twenty-four hours from the moment when she received the title "beata," thirty remarkable favors were recorded. This overwhelming flood of graces together with the thousands of petitions coming from priests and people throughout the world, moved the Holy Father to promote at once the Cause of Therese’s Canonization.

    Again two new miracles were selected and examined by the Congregation of Rites.

 

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    The first was the cure of Maria Pellemans of Brussells, Belgium. Since October of 1919, she had been a victim of pulmonary tuberculosis, followed by gastritis and intestinal tuberculosis. Her devotion to the Blessed Mother prompted her to make a pilgramage to Lourdes in August, 1920. The Lady of the Grotto refused to cure her, reserving that privilege to the "Little One" of Lisieux. In March of 1923, the sufferer accompanied a band of pilgrims to the tomb of the Little Flower. While kneeling before the remains of the recently beatified Saint, Maria Pellemans was suddenly and completely restored to health.

    The second miracle used to promote the Cause of Therese’s Canonization was wrought in favor of Gabriella Trimusi, a nun of the Convent of the Poor Daughters of the Sacred Heart in Parma, Italy. Gabriella’s trouble began with a lesion at the knee-joint, caused by breaking firewood across her knee. Gout of the knee and tuberculosis of the vertebrae, accompanied by curvature of the spine, combined to reduce the nun to an almost hopeless condition. The best doctors were employed and the best possible means were used to restore her to health. All remedies failing, Gabriella was recommended to take part in a public novena in honor of the Little Flower. At the close of the nine days of prayer (June, 1923) , she took off the iron jacket which she had worn for the support of her spine and declared herself free from pain. The curvature of the spine had disappeared and Gabriella was perfectly cured.

 

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    The usual Sessions were held and both miracles received the approval of the Holy Father. His Holiness triumphantly announced that he would officiate at the Little Flower’s Canonization on Sunday, May 17, 1925. It was to be the first event of its kind to take place within his pontificate and he would take every measure to make it the most impressive ceremony in the history of his career.

    Let us hear the story of little Therese’s Canonization from the lips of a beloved Bishop,* who was an eyewitness to the scene.

    "I never witnessed such a magnificent spectacle as when the Holy Father, surrounded by hundreds of bishops and dignitaries, hundreds of guards in brilliant medieval uniforms, and a vast concourse of 80,000 people, solemnly declared the humble nun a saint of God. The scene at the Consecration of the Mass was sublime beyond description. In Jerusalem of old, at the sound of a trumpet, 100,000 Israelites in the streets or on the roofs of their houses, all turned toward the temple and fell on their knees. That scene was dwarfed by the grand spectacle in St. Peter’s. Thousands of soldiers who stood till then, fell on their knees, a hush came over the vast throng, and then Christ descended on the altar, which became another Bethlehem, while high up in the dome a trumpet sounded and thousands outside joined with those in the basilica in an act of adoration.  No court in the world could ever evoke such splendor and enthusiasm.

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•Most Reverend Michael James Gallagher. D.D. Bishop of Detroit, July 18, 1918 to January 20, 1937.

 

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    "As I witnessed this grandeur of the Catholic liturgy, I could not repress the thought that this magnificent demonstration was inspired by a simple girl who died at an age less than thirty years previously and was now raised to the honors of the altar."

 

 

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XXIX.

THE GUIDING STAR

IN MAY 17, 1925, His Holiness, Pope Pius XI granted an audience to Cardinal Dougherty, Archbishop of Philadelphia, who had crossed the sea to participate in the Canonization of the Little Flower. In the course of that interview, the head of Christendom stated that it was the supreme moment of his life. He congratulated the American prelate on having undertaken such a long voyage to share in the honor of the Saint of Lisieux. "In America," remarked the Pope, "you call her the Little Flower, but I call her my guiding-star."

    With unbounded joy did the Holy Father refer to St. Therese as the very first of those privileged souls whom he declared blessed (beata). With equal exultation did he point to her as the very first whom he placed on the list of canonized saints (canonizata). However, his admiration for this little Saint rested upon deeper foundations than these two coincidences. His devotion to her was grounded upon the unfailing help which she had rendered him on numerous occasions. To the Bishops who visited him, the aged Pontiff always gave this timely piece of advice: "In your difficulties, go to St. Therese of the Child Jesus. I invoke her incessantly and she refuses me nothing."

 

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    Pius Xl’s deep regard for the Little Flower expressed itself more eloquently in deeds than in words. To her, he confided the most perplexing problems of his Pontificate, such as the solution of the Roman Question and the quieting of the religious disturbances in Mexico and Russia. He did not hesitate to place the new Collegium Romanum in Rome under her patronage. In the year 1927 (December 14), to the joy of the entire world, he proclaimed St. Therese, Universal Patron of the Missions of the Church. What a day of rejoicing this must have been for Louis and Zelie Martin, who had so frequently petitioned Almighty God to send them a "little missionary"!

    Again, when the cornerstone of the College of the Propagation of the Faith in Rome was brought to the Pope for his blessing, he requested that it be carried into the Vatican Gardens, where he blessed it at his own private Shrine to St. Therese. It was not an unusual sight to find the aged Vicar of Christ kneeling in profound prayer before the Little Flower’s statue, which he had installed in this Shrine with his own hands. When the inclemency of the weather detained him from his customary stroll through the Vatican Gardens, he spent more than a little portion of his free time in praying before her portrait and her relic which adorned the desk in his study.

 

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    Happy shall we be if we imitate the example of this venerable Pontiff. The success which he enjoyed shall be ours if we only call upon the Little Flower to lead us along her Little Way. It is a path in which we all can follow, because it is not too steep and its steps are not too far apart. It is a direct route that takes us through the valleys of humility and over rough rocks of trial. It is the simple, normal, beaten track that brings us through the midst of commonplace cares. It knows no detours around the fields of labor or the hills of suffering. Two unpretentious signs mark out its course: "Confidence!" and "Love!" The tiniest soul that sets out upon this road and pursues it faithfully under the guidance of little Therese, will reach the journey’s end laden with the precious pearls of prayer and the costly diamonds of sacrifice which it has gathered all along the way.

 

THE END

 

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